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Continuing Committee Chambers, Ki-Baratan: Romulus, Romulan Star Empire

Stardate: 53371.4

"Why were these exercises allowed to continue when Starfleet could observe them?" Senator Semachs said banging his fist on the table. "They now have a dangerous and intimate understanding of how we would fight during an invasion."

"Senator," Chairman Koval said steepling his fingers, "One of the primary purposes of these wargames was to show the Federation of the new capabilities of the Romulan/Cardassian State Alliance. Indeed, there would be no point in continuing the engagements if the Federation was not observing. We want to strike fear into their ranks…"

"Spare us, Chairman," Senator Barchrus said from the far end of the table. "Everyone in this room knows how incompetent the Cardassian creatures are. They are as stupid and arrogant as humans or Klingons. The Tal Shiar representatives at the exercises should have ordered their suspension until this body was at least briefed! We don't spend the good talons of the taxpayers of the Star Empire to justify spoon-headed incompetence."

"Ladies and Gentlemen," a voice echoed from the other end of the room. The group turned to see Senator Trallian, the committee's newest member, raise his hand. "I know I do not have the experience of most of the members of this body, but I would suggest that Chairman Koval may be correct in his assessment…"

"Ahhh, the junior senator from Tremaxus…" Barchrus laughed. "Please, enlighten us with your wisdom…"

"Senator," Trallian began by averting his gaze downward. "As I said, this committee's wisdom probably surpasses mine, however, what is the most powerful weapon Romulus has at its disposal?" He looked up and down the table to meet a series of confused glances. "Is it disruptors? Plasma torpedoes? No, it is fear!"

"Fear?" Semachs said incredulously, his white hair shimmering in the dim light of the chamber. "You suggest that a few grey-skinned thugs are enough to scare the Federation?"

His barb elicited laughs from a few other committee members.

"No, I agree, the Cardassians are a sub-Romulan race. They are barely sentient at best, but the Federation does view them as dangerous. Combine that with the fact that we have begun to rearm the animals in our image, and I think that is enough to show our enemies that we are a force to be reckoned with."

"A force to be reckoned with?" Senator S'trita said from three seats away. "As I continue to emphatically state, our enemies will not view us with respect until we crush our own slave rebellion. They laugh as we struggle to keep our own house in order…"

"The slaves will be dealt with Shokanna," Semachs said with a deep breath. "However, it does us no good to slaughter servants when wolves are at our door…"

"You expect the wolves to run when we cannot keep our own sheep obedient?" S'trita said raising an eyebrow.

The doors to the chamber flew open. A man with a long beard and disheveled robes stared back at them with eyes on fire.

"All rise for the praetor!" Koval said. The other members of the committee immediately jumped to attention. Neral stepped inside, fuming with rage.

"What is this!?" he demanded passing back and forth on the marble floor.

"My Lord," Koval said doubling down with a penitent tone, "we did not want to disturb you in your studies…"

"My own Continuing Committee?" he said moving down the table, "Meeting without me?"

"Esteemed Praetor," Barchrus replied, "as Chairman Koval said, you stated that you did not wish to be disturbed with trivial matters. We were meeting to discuss the current training being undertaken by the Fifth and Eighth Legions with the Cardassian State…"

"SILENCE!" Neral yelled. His stink was enough to cause most of the committee to cover their faces. It was obvious he had not bathed in days. "You dare to justify your treason to me?" he spit at them.

The Senators and military officials exchanged frustrated glances.

"Praetor," Semachs said, "there is no treason here. We merely are continuing the business of state while the praetor concerns himself with greater matters…"

"Greater matters?" Neral said stroking his beard. "You mean like plotting against me? Plotting against the treasured memory of my beloved wife? Your First Lady!"

"Preator!" S'trita said raising to her feet. "The passing of Lady Selonia wounds us all, but for the Romulan government to survive, we must continue functioning."

"You think I do not function, Senator?" Neral said walking up to the table and slamming his fists on the wooden surface in front of her. "I assure you, avenging her death is all that the Romulan Empire needs to do to triumph against barbarism!"

"Praetor," Koval said walking around the table and placing a hand on Neral's shoulder. "We understand your agony. No doubt, the realization that Vrnealious was aiding the seditious forces against us wounded you even more, but his execution has done much to relieve our collective pain."

The Senators exchanged another glance between themselves.

"Perhaps you should return to your chambers to rest. You can tell me what issues you wish us to discuss and we can do so…"

"Rest if for lesser men, Koval!" Neral spit at him while throwing his arms back. "I am here to guide this committee towards enlightenment!"

"Praetor!" Koval said more forcefully. "Please, come with me."

"Do you all feel this way?" Neral said, his wild eyes making contact with every member of the committee up and down the table. Most averted contact. "Oh, I see…" Neral said trailing off. "You are afraid! Afraid of what I will command of you! You are not worthy to sit at this table!"

Koval motioned for two praetorians to come and assist him. They grabbed Neral by the robes and began to pull him back towards the doors.

"Traitors! Traitors all of you! Only one man is strong enough to keep the raptor flying! That is me!"

His voice echoed down the marble halls as he disappeared into the corridor. The other senators exchanged a collective exhale of relief once he was gone. An awkward silence permeated the room. Finally, Trallian spoke.

"Are we really going to allow him to remain in power?"

"What are you suggesting, Senator?" S'trita said incredulously.

"You know exactly what I am suggesting," Trallian replied.

"We have not come to that point yet," Barchrus interjected.

"Have we?" Trallian muttered.

"You need more than six months on this committee before suggesting murdering the leader of the Empire," Semachs said hiding a laugh.

"Then maybe one of you should…" Trallian said trailing off.

That gave the other Senators pause.

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